FDNY: Battalion Chief Michael Fahy Dies after Bronx House Explosion

Newsday - September 28, 2016

by Newsday Staff

An FDNY battalion chief considered “a rising star” was killed Tuesday morning in an explosion at a suspected marijuana grow house in the Bronx, police and fire officials said.

The deceased firefighter, Michael J. Fahy, 44, was a 17-year veteran and father of three.

Mayor Bill de Blasio said that it was “with profound sorrow that I announce the passing of Battalion Chief Michael Fahy ... a brave man.”

“We lost a hero today and our members are all saddened,” FDNY Commissioner Daniel Nigro said.

Nine other firefighters, six NYPD officers, three Con Edison worker and two civilians were injured when the roof blew off the house and struck the victims, who were standing in the street, officials said.

Fahy, who was supervising the scene, had followed his father, Battalion Chief Thomas Fahy, into the department and was “a rising star, a brave man,” Nigro said.

Police rushed Fahy to The Allen Hospital at NewYork-Presbyterian in upper Manhattan, where he was pronounced dead.

Fahy’s wife and parents were at the hospital, de Blasio said at a news conference inside the hospital.

“I saw the unspeakable pain when they were told formally that they lost Michael,” the mayor said.

Nigro said Fahy had two boys and a girl, aged 6, 8 and 11.

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, speaking at the Association for a Better New York luncheon in Manhattan Tuesday, noted Fahy’s death and asked for prayers for his family.

“It’s another reminder of the sacrifices that our first responders make,” Cuomo said. “Every day when they leave the house is a day that family doesn’t know if they’re ever going to see them again.”

City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito issued a statement Tuesday, saying Fahy had “made the ultimate sacrifice to protect New Yorkers.”

An ambulance carrying Fahy’s body left the hospital Tuesday afternoon in a procession with fire trucks, police vehicles and officers on motorcycles.

Fahy’s fellow firefighters — some in their uniforms, some in civilian clothes, some with their firefighter jackets draped over their arms — saluted as the procession drove away from the hospital. Some of them embraced after the ambulance left.

Several blocks around the 19th Battalion on Walton Avenue, where Fahy was battalion chief, were blocked to traffic on Tuesday.

A single bouquet was leaning against the entrance to the garage around the corner as a few firefighters milled about talking to one another, most in plainclothes and at least one in uniform.

The NYPD said the six officers all suffered minor injuries and were transported to area hospitals for treatment.

The Con Edison worker also was transported to Allen Hospital, where he is in stable condition, the NYPD said.

The FDNY said firefighters responded to 304 W. 234th St. in the Kingsbridge neighborhood after a 911 call reported an odor of gas leak at 6:22 a.m. Police said the explosion occurred about 40 minutes later.

Police Commissioner James O’Neill said his department had gotten information a couple of weeks ago that the two-story private home was “a possible grow house, marijuana,” and that the police investigation of that report was “in the initial stages.”

He said there were renters living in the house, and investigators are still trying to determine who they are.

Enrique Onesimo Guerrero, the owner of the house that blew up, said he rented the house to a couple from the Dominican Republic.

“I don’t know what happened,” Guerrero said in a brief telephone interview on Tuesday.

Chris Arnone, 66, who lives on the opposite end of the block, said she had seen Con Edison workers in the neighborhood in recent weeks, so she assumed it was a gas explosion.

She had just woken up around 7 a.m. and was in her bedroom when she heard the explosion.

“It was mayhem,” Armone said. “So many trucks and firefighters running to [the] scene. It’s been like a war zone since that happened.”

“I am very shaken up,” she added. “I am sad about the loss of life — the fire chief.”

Jim Lahti, 61, a music arranger and composer, said he was sound asleep when the explosion woke him.

“It felt like an earthquake or somebody hadn’t stopped at the intersection and plowed their car through our fence,” Lahti said in a telephone interview.

Lahti said he got dressed and raced outside. Fire trucks and Con Edison trucks were already clogging the streets, and he said he walked down the block to the house that blew up.

“There were a couple walls still standing, but the house was basically obliterated,” he said. “You could see interior walls. Everything was so damaged that it didn’t look like a house anymore.”

“It’s a lovely neighborhood.” he said. “We have BBQs. Everybody knows everybody. Most of us know each other, it’s a shock. It really is.”